Girl, *This* is How to Get Rid of Dark Spots (A Refresher)

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I’ve talked about dark spots here on this blog and on my Youtube channel a lot. And it’s obvious why: um, them thangs are ANNOYING…lol. Unlike say, the chickenpox, dark spots aren’t something you get once in life, it sucks for a bit, you treat it, and then you’re not likely to get it again. Nah, yo. Dark spots are like Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhies. We spent SO MUCH time and energy trying to get rid of them—and we do, only for that damn sequel to pop up and HERE WE GO AGAIN. LE SIGH.

So as much as I’ve already laid out the blueprint for getting rid of dark spots, here’s a refresher.

Why We Get Dark Spots

Our skin (and when I say “our skin” I mean people of color as we tend to have a good amount of melanin) can be a bit reactive to certain situations that “disrupt” the skin. For instance, you get a pimple, it comes to a head (or doesn’t), you treat it (or don’t), and it finally goes away. Or you accidentally scratch your face with your nails. You might even have some oil splash up on your cheek while you were frying some bomb fried chicken (that I might add, you didn’t invite me over to enjoy). These are just a few examples, but those levels of “disruption” are enough to cause the skin to (in laymen’s terms) freak out and go into panic mode. Your skin is basically like “omg WHAT is happening here? ALERT ALERT ALERT ALERT” and in response it produces even more melanin to get ready for combat. Except your skin doesn’t actually go into combat so that excess melanin is what we see as dark spots.

How to Get Rid of Dark Spots

The best type of dark spots to treat are the ones that are still “fresh.” I say this because these are the most receptive to over the counter treatments. Older dark spots can take longer to fade—if you want to see a more dramatic difference, it’s best to see a dermatologist who may prescribe something stronger than what’s available at stores.

Getting rid of dark spots involves many factors but the two biggest ones I think most people need are patience and consistency. It can take 4-6 weeks before you even notice slight fading and 8-12 weeks before some spots are gone. You have to be patient and realize this is a long road ahead where consistency is key.

There are a number of spot treatments on the market that you can buy to help fade your dark spots with a variety of active ingredients. Popular ones include hydroquinone, kojic acid, licorice root, vitamin C, and lactic acid. Which one you use will depend on your preferences and of course your skin. If you prefer something that is more on the natural side, you might look at ones that contain ingredients like kojic acid, licorice root, etc. Keep in mind though that the more natural ones can take longer to see results. Hydroquinone is a popular and effective treatment. It can only be sold over the counter in a 2% or less concentration; for higher percentages, you’ll need a prescription. I personally have and still use products that contain hydroquinone, but the ingredient is not without its controversy as it’s banned in a number of countries across the globe. Though the FDA as of the time of this posting has not directly linked hydroquinone to cancer, like with anything you do/use that may alter your skin or body, it’s a good idea to have a talk with your doctor and do your own due diligence to determine if it’s right for you.

I’ve used a number of products to lighten dark spots over the years and the best and quickest results I’ve ever had came from topical creams prescribed to me by dermatologists. I just got a special compound of 12% hydroquinone and 6% kojic acid prescribed to me by Dr. Michelle Henry given to me to help fade some dark spots and discoloration on my face. It cost $65 which is of course a lot more than the $10 Alpha Skincare dark spot lightener that I use sometimes, but is also about the same price as many spot lighteners sold on the department store level that have less concentration of ingredient.

Now getting rid of dark spots is not as simple as lightening the spots and going about your life, you have to take it from a holistic approach. Not too long ago I had the most hyperpigmentation I’d had in like a decade and it was because I had a bout of adult acne that left the offending spots. It was super annoying because I would also get some pimples in the SAME EXACT SPOTS so there was a never-ending dark spot situation in those areas. So my dark spot solution was to control the acne, treat the dark spots, and protect my skin. Your solution may of course be different depending on your skin needs and issues, but there is no dark spot regimen without a basic skincare regimen. If you need help figuring out your basic skincare regimen, read this post.

Here’s a timeline showcasing my progress during that time period where I had the most hyperpigmentation I had in yeaaaars.

January 2016

getting-rid-of-hyperpigmentation

June 2016

how-to-get-rid-of-dark-spots

October 2016


(My brows were filled in here, but I’m not wearing any other makeup—no foundation, no concealer, no powder—nothing)

Another important thing to know: if you’re treating dark spots and not using sunscreen, you might as well raise your hand high and bring it forcefully down and violently swat your face because you’re playing yourself…lol.

You should be wearing sunscreen daily anyway (I have a whole section on this blog dedicated to suncare that includes sunscreens that won’t feel greasy or make you look ashy), but you also don’t want all your handiwork to go in vain because the sun is making your dark spots darker.

See a professional

I think in this age of quick fixes and 60 second videos that make you believe that all of your skincare problems are just SO easy to cure with random stuff found in your kitchen, people tend to overlook enlisting the help of skincare professionals. Your skin can be exponentially better with visits to a dermatologist and an esthetician for regular facials and other treatments. Yes, some of these visits can be relatively out of budget, but you know what is SUPER out of budget? Wasting your money on skincare products that aren’t for you or even worse, trying to treat something at home and making it WAY worse. Like, yeah you saved money by making some sort of baking soda concoction in your kitchen, but now you burned a hole in your skin :/

Seeing a professional may not even be as expensive as you think—your insurance may even cover some of it (of course depending on what it is).

In the meantime

Folks will try to play you telling you instead of covering up your skin with makeup, you need to take care of your skin. (I might have even said some iteration of that mess back in the day…lol) But it’s like “okay, what do you expect me to do while I’m treating my skin?”

So in the meantime, you may want makeup to help cover the dark spots (of course this is your prerogative—not saying you HAVE to). Sometimes your foundation alone may cover your dark spots so put your foundation on first and then assess if you need to add concealer. When covering dark spots, your concealer should be as close to your skin tone as possible. Keep in mind that you may need more than one color depending on where the spot is. For instance, my chin area is darker than my forehead area so the concealer color I would need to cover my chin would be darker than the one I would use on my forehead.

Need more help on the makeup end? Get in-depth info in Are You Wearing the Wrong Foundation Pt 1 and Pt 2. See more foundation reviews & swatches here and more concealer reviews & swatches here.

Additional reading/viewing

Yes, I’ve posted about this topic in different ways numerous times on this blog in the past. But over the years I’ve picked up new followers (heyyy, ya’ll!) and also, it’s great to have a refresher. So there are tons more for you to read so you can have a full understanding, so I encourage you to bookmark this page or go grab a snack and something comfy to wear and come back and dig in.

Here’s Why Your Skincare Products May Not Be Working

My Dark Spots Update: Everything I Did to Treat Them!

Skincare Posts You MUST Read

Sunscreen: How to Apply It, How to Avoid Flashback in Pics & MORE!

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About Danielle

A former finance girl, Danielle is a New York City based freelance writer and fashion and beauty expert. She's a Hofstra University and Fashion Institute of Technology grad with an obsession with fashion and beauty which she loves to tell you all about every weekday on her award-winning blog. Think of her as your style and beauty entourage all wrapped up into one bubbly brown package. Danielle's work and expertise can be found in print and across the web in Cosmopolitan for Latinas, Allure.com, and more! She's also appeared as an on-air style and beauty expert on The Real, CBS New York's "The Couch" and WPIX11's Savvy Shopper segment.

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